SUMANT KOWSHIK is VP of product at Personify Inc., where his teams created imaging and computer vision technology and video apps for depth (3D) cameras on PCs, mobiles, and immersive platforms like VR/AR.
NICK TIMMONS is the director of sales at Inc.Personify Inc., where they’ve developed technology to remove a user’s background from their webcam and project the user’s image on their screen in real time. When they started, they recruited new hires from the local university. As people grew older, they wanted to move to new locations – and the company wanted to support that. Their company has teams in the United States and Vietnam.
Subscribe to the Collaboration Superpowers Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.
Their tips for working remotely:
- Treat teams in different locations as equals.
- Take care of yourself and take time off when you need it.
- Use video technology.
- Share the burden of late or early meetings because of time zones.
Podcast production by Podcast Monster
Graphic design by Alfred Boland
Lisette: And we’re live. So welcome everybody to this remote interview. My name is Lisette and I’m interviewing people and companies doing great things remotely. And I’m totally excited today because on the line we have Personify and we have Nick Timmons and superstar Sumant. Why don’t we just start with the question of what does your anywhere office look like and we’ll get into what Personify is exactly with this question. So Sumant, you want to start?
Sumant: We are as appreciative of a nice office space as anybody else. Whenever we can, we actually have a really nice space, elevated ceilings. We need to favor offices that have a bit of that San Francisco look, even though we’re based in Chicago, sort of industrial décor and just big windows and lots of sunlight and so on. But honestly we have a number of people who don’t work out of our main offices, our main two offices…actually main three offices in Champaign, Chicago, and Vietnam actually. And interesting story behind how we actually have a very nice presence in Vietnam that we can get to later, but our anywhere office, really for us, I mean obviously being a very agile software development firm, we are always racing against time to put product out into the market, working with partners and so on. We’re really using some of the latest and greatest systems. The big thing that you’ll see in Personify that you wouldn’t see, I can confidently say, in practically any other company in the world is the fact that we have the best cameras that the world hasn’t see yet. [01:59] and me and Nick are using two of those cameras right now. We’re actually doing something kind of fun. This is sort of a teaser into what our application really does, and Nick just turned on his background and so can I. We’re really just sitting in kind of regular office spaces but with a click of a button we’re both able to turn our backgrounds into what we want. I’ve decided to turn mine into a weather-appropriate snow-capped mountain because it’s really snowing outside here and I’d like you to know that. Anyway, our anywhere office looks like…we have…
Nick: The reason why I turn my background is to show what our actual office looks like here in Champaign. We’ve got a lot of whiteboard stuff with some graphics, Personify, etc. It’s an open office space, a cube so it facilitates collaboration. There’s always random cross-functional conversations going on about whatever a strategic issue of the day is dominant at that time. We like that type of ethic, that San Francisco space that Sumant was talking about.
Lisette: You have a headquarters though where people work together in the headquarters and you’re working with distributed teams as well.
Sumant: Exactly. Exactly. Each of us have nice systems, nice PCs, multiple monitors often for the developers. We’ve got an array of the latest and greatest 3D cameras that we use both for demos and marketing, as well as development. That’s the big difference that you would see in our office. Other than that we’re using a lot of whiteboard, using a lot of whiteboard walls, whiteboard paint on the walls so we can write on the walls. Nick, I think, just showed you a little view of that in one of our spaces. We live to obviously collaborate in the usual ways physically, but virtually we use a slew of cloud tools. This is not one or two. We’re probably using at least a dozen, if not 20 different cloud tools to collaborate for various functions – sales, marketing, development, software development for bug tracking. Name it. Everything’s in the cloud. Really I’m as effective from home or when I’m travelling abroad or anywhere as I would be if I was sitting right here in the office.
Lisette: And why are you guys working with remote teams? What was the decision that made you decide to not all work in the same city, same office.
Sumant: I think talent is the number one reason. I think we have a very strong team to begin with. We were founded out of the University of Illinois. I mean University of Illinois, for those not necessarily familiar, although it’s hard not to be familiar being in the technology space, it’s top 3 school, supplies some of the best engineers all over the world. Obviously the ideas came out of the research down in the University of Illinois in the ECE department and then we commercialized it a few years ago. So then we got venture funding and so on. But the initial core team, we formed it out of the university – Ph.D. students, a couple of faculty as well. And then we kept hiring from the university because a – we have the network, and b – why wouldn’t you hire from [05:47]. And then as people grew up from being 20 something to 30 something and so on, people want to move around. That was one of the reasons why we wanted to keep people while they move to different places. The other big story was two of our founders were actually from Vietnam and one of them actually has to go back. In fact it was his master’s thesis that was the sort of a crux of this idea of background segmentation automatically without any [06:23]. Just click over a button you’ll remove the background, put whatever you want behind it or put nothing. Just put yourself in the desktop with a click of a button. It was his idea and some of his ideas that formed the company. When he moved to Vietnam, he was a great candidate to start an office there, recruit in Vietnam. Lots of amazing talent in Vietnam, extremely strong mathematics and computer science programs there. So he’s been able to hire some superstars, the real superstars, not the ones by name only in Vietnam.
Lisette: I can imagine clearly there’s a lot that’s working for your team and we’ll definitely get into that because clearly you’re making it work. But what I want to start with, because I always find this most interesting is, what is it that’s really hard about working together? What are some of the challenges that you guys have had to face in order to make this work? Unless you’re like the one company that’s been smooth sailing from the beginning, but it seems like most people really struggle at some point with this. Is there anything in particular you guys did?
Sumant: Absolutely. I think we’ve gone through a lot of growth in terms of just maturity in collaborating remotely. I can tell you about what we were doing three years ago, and in retrospect it was so much more ineffective compared to what we’re doing today, but I can also tell you today, I feel like even though we made rapid strides in collaboration and who knows what else we’ll keep introducing and so on, but I still think the gap even today would be just that idea of being together that’s missing – the hallways conversation, the sort of you can turn around to the person right next to you if they were right next to you physically and ask them a quick question. And of course the extension to that, which is going and having coffee or lunch with them and having this ad hoc brainstorming session. We definitely miss that in the remote conversation and I think technology will continue to bridge the gap. Compared to today, I still feel like we have some ways to go. Right? But I mean compared to yesterday, we’ve come a long way. Talking about the struggles, for a long time even though we were a video company in the first year or two, we weren’t necessarily using video technology for collaboration compulsorily. I mean it’s not compulsory by fiat. Nobody is telling us to use it right now, but effectively there was a time when we just made up all our mind and it came from the CEO and said “let’s all try to use video technology” and that’s just changed our lives [9:16].
Sumant: Yeah definitely, it did.
Lisette: In what ways does that change things? Because I’m a big fan of using video. I try to force it on just about everybody when I can. I mean I know there’s reasons for not using it also, very good ones for not using it. I’m not a strict enforcer but I’m curious. How is it made a difference for your company?
Nick: Let me take a crack at that one, Sumant, because I remember very clearly as well that email from Sanjay because I feel like the crux of the change, I mean by fiat saying “listen, we’re going to do video collaboration for all of our meetings” was because of our basic technology. What I’m doing is I’ve got a 3D camera. Sumant’s got a 3D camera, and because I have a 3D camera I can do this type of experience. And our technology to date has all been about one-to-one or one-to-many use cases. I mean you’ve seen it, Lisette, where it’s just me putting myself on to my slides and then sharing my screen, doing a webinar or prefectures, personifying online courses, inside sales folks personifying their demos, that kind of thing. Those are all one-to-one, one-to-many used cases. The vision of the company, and I think Sumant and I have talked about this quite a lot that it’s quite fascinating that most technology companies pivot at some point, maybe three or four or five times they pivot. You think of something like Twitter. They did something several times. They started as a podcasting or audio company site. There’s a lot of companies that have made pivots but our company has not. Our basic vision and the vision of the CEO and the founders has always been “hey listen, these cameras are going to shrink and go everywhere, and then everyone can have this type of Personified experience.” I think the reason why Sanjay had made, and why all of us bought into it so strongly that hey we just need to be on video for every call, was because it fit very strongly with the ultimately vision of the company that has guided us since we started because we’ve not pivoted. I mean the basic idea for what we wanted to build and how we wanted to help this 3D echo system and space get started, it’s always been the same. I think that that idea of getting on video and doing so for every call possible was something that fits very well for especially the kind of company we are, which is why I think we made that move so easily, or that transition so well and pretty easily.
Lisette: Interesting. And so do you find that the team building, that sort of water cooler feeling becomes easier because you see each other so much?
Nick: Yeah, yeah I think so for sure. Like Sumant says, of course there’s definitely the challenges that come with like…Sanjay, the CEOs desk is right here, and there’s often a time where I’m like “hey Sanjay, what do you think about X? What do you think about Y?” Or a customer has an issue and Sumant’s sitting right behind me, “hey Sumant, what do you think about X? What do you think about Y? Or Z customer problem, how can I solve or do this? What’s your advice on this product feature?” Those types of conversations are very nice to have because they’re very quick. There is still a little bit of inefficiency like my direct boss, Dave, is in Chicago and he runs sales and marketing for us and business development. I ping Dave on Google Hangouts or we’ll get on a Personify call or something like that, but there’s still a little bit of delay here. Whereas I can look directly at Sumant, I can look directly at Sanjay or David, see if they’re busy and be like “oh I can ask them later.” There’s definitely still so much as a lot of inefficiencies and that’s just one example that really need to be worked out in the future and that’s the kind of stuff that we’re working on building right here, using 3D cameras of course.
Lisette: So when I talk to people a lot, especially about video, I get resistance, especially remote workers for some reason and I’ve been doing it for so long I don’t even think about it but during my interviews I’ve come across a lot of people who are like “I feel vulnerable using video.” You guys must come across this also.
Sumant: I think…well let me state it somewhat strongly but I think who have those reservations probably haven’t used video extensively enough, because once you’ve used it, it’s hard to go back. And I think yes it takes some preparation, but it takes some preparation to dress up and come to the office in the morning, right? And people like to hide. All of us are lazy and we all like to hide behind slides or just audio. We like to be distracted and so on. But I just think it’s sort of trading off the short term gain, just the short term laziness and you’re damaging long term effectiveness, long term connectedness and so on. I mean I would strongly argue that whatever arguments you may have are strictly short term and you’re not taking a long enough view of this, right? Understandably you don’t want to show people your cluttered room. Technologically we can solve some of that but at some level, you need to…I think it’s just better for the meeting, it’s better for the presentation for you to be a little more prepared. And really we’re talking about minutes here, right? We’re not talking about hours of preparation to just be on a video call.
Lisette: You can just put on a shirt, put on a nice jacket.
Sumant: I don’t think it’s cultural too. Right? I think once people get used to it, like right now we don’t even think so hard about what are we wearing, how’s my hair. Everybody’s sort of used to the fact that it’s nice to see the other person. It’s an extremely effective meeting. What we’re having even right now, I mean face to face is incredible. I think on a call, without all of us being somewhat distracted, I think this would be a very different interview.
Lisette: I must say that even from the interviews that I’ve done with people, most of the people that I’ve met over interview, I’ve ended up probably 70% of the interviews that I’ve done I’ve ended up in some sort of collaboration with the people that I’ve interviewed and I think it’s because of the personal touch that the video brings. I mean I never had that kind of engagement rate with email or a phone call. Never! But because people get to know me and we get to know each other, we look into each other’s eyes, there’s a weird trust that’s built.
Nick: And you know Sumant, to kind of piggyback on what you were saying, I say it in almost all of my demos. Right? Especially if you’re someone like myself who’s doing a lot of sales, a lot of demos, a lot of software demos, that kind of thing. By putting myself on video, I know that I’m going to have to be present in some kind of specific way. Hello.
Lisette: Is that…
Nick: Hey this is Santos, how are you doing? The idea is that by being present in this way though, what it does is it creates this need on my side to have this certain kind of energy. If I’m just putting up slides and I’m going to talk through them and drone on and on and on and go on forever, right? It’s going to become something…it’s okay, no worries.
Lisette: Do you guys know him?
Nick: I have no idea.
Lisette: I don’t know either. Funny.
Nick: Randomly synched on to the call. Is it a vanity URL or something like that?
Lisette: Yeah it’s my personal. I must have used it for something else.
Nick: Yeah for sure because you’re probably…
Sumant: Now imagine this was happening on audio. We wouldn’t even know he was there.
Nick: Exactly. Right, that’s a good point.
Lisette: That’s a really good point.
Nick: But not to belabor the point but the whole idea is that it creates this, what I’m trying to get at is this positive feedback cycle where it’s like you’re more engaged because you’re seeing my facial gestures and my movement and my energy and my passion. I’m communicating with you like you as a person are designed to be communicated with. Right? But knowing that I have that effect in a meeting means that I myself have to bring the appropriate amount of verve and energy and psychological effort presenting the meeting itself too. You’re more engaged but I also know that. And so as a result, I have to be more engaged with my own message. And so it creates this awesome cycle where you’re just presenting better and they’re in-taking it better. So over the course of let’s say a sales demo, let’s say a couple of our larger enterprise clients like an SAP or Oracle, they’re finding that their sales cycles are decreasing significantly because it doesn’t matter if you’re a million dollar buyer of SAP software. They’re the best. You’re going to buy it anywhere. But there is nothing more boring than watching someone click through their screen for an hour and a half, showing you their ELP implementation or something of that sort. And you’re going to buy, but you don’t understand it so you might buy it three months after. If you’re really engaged and you really paid attention in that hour and half because the consultant is on your screen in this way, all of a sudden they’re like “oh wait a minute. I get this.” Their sales cycles are closing by 20% or 30%. They’re closing people so much faster because of that personal relationship that’s built up, even in a one-way interaction.
Lisette: Awesome, very interesting. In terms though of how you guys communicate more with your team, are you always doing video chat or do you have like a group instant messaging system? What do you do for the remote people if they’re not sitting in the office and you can’t shout like “hey, got a thought on this?”
Sumant: We’re doing a lot of text chatting, for sure. Do you want us to mention vendors?
Lisette: Yeah, if you want. I think people love to know which tools are working.
Sumant: We’re a Google Apps company, so we use the Google Hangouts, the text chatting aspect of it and sometimes even the video chatting. We’ve tried Chrome Box as well for meeting rooms, and so on. Actually our vision has been to take video beyond that. We started using our tools a whole lot lately for the actual meetings because I think the one area that video chatting and video conversations can really improve is just in terms of being a lightweight element, both in terms of startup like our product, what it does to them…we’re not talking about camera, which is what I’m using right now, but our main product which is just called Personify. It’s all about quick to start so I see your name on my screen, I click it and you pop up on my screen without your background, just on my screen. That’s two things. One – makes it really easy for me to start a conversation with you, kind of like that hallway conversation. Two – you occupy a very minimal area part of my real estate on my screen, so I can continue to do my work, and if we really want to share something, we can continue to have a shared experience, such as we can edit PowerPoint together or we’re developers, I could show you an issue I’m having with the build and you could help me with it and so on. So for us, video is about being a lightweight element. And as much as I enjoy hanging out in Zoom and so on, what’s happening right now to me is this whole thing is occupying my whole screen, and so this is taking my full attention. And yes you can have multiple monitors and so on, but really for us it’s about being a very small lightweight element. Lately we’ve been using our tool a lot. We really like our tool. Of course it’s bias but we enjoy using it a whole lot because we can continue to do our work and often you’re on a 45-minute meeting you’re maybe involved for half of it and the other half you can sort of check your email if you really need to, while staying connected, without me minimizing the window, which is what I’d have to do in an experience like Hangouts or Zoom. The video meeting experience we are trying to use our tool a lot more these days and so on. But for text chatting, we use Hangouts. We’ve tried some other tools before and we like them more but it’s just been kind of hard to switch us out of Hangouts just because everybody’s already on it and so on. We tried Slack for instance and Slack was a really nice tool, lots of great integrations for example, and we tried Flowdock at some point and so on. But kind of our fallback and we always go back to this, has always been Hangouts.
Lisette: Yeah. I mean sometimes even if it’s not the perfect tool, something just sticks and works and then you guys just got to use it even if it’s not perfect.
Sumant: Exactly. It’s integrated, right? I mean that integrated-ness of it is really interesting.
Lisette: You said something a while back about the video didn’t affect the culture, something about the culture. I wrote it down immediately because I wanted to ask are there any cultural things that you guys struggle with between maybe Vietnam and the US. I have a hard time pinning down what the cultural differences are sometimes. So I always like to ask, especially if we’re working in far off places with each other. But are there issues with that? Are there something about the Vietnam culture that is different?
Sumant: You know let me think. I will say the people we work with are very young. They are extremely enthusiastic to be part of this [23:42]. And so really our culture’s language has been an issue. I mean speaking English for example is not necessarily that they grow up with, so video helps there a whole lot because jus body language, I mean there’s just so much communication happening through facial expressions and body language and so on. I think text chatting helps because non-English speakers are able to sort of frame their thoughts better in text chats, but so does video in a different way, which is it helps them stay connected when they’re not good at the language. I mean when you’re not good at the language and purely all audio call is probably the worst thing, right? Because you struggle to compose sentences on the fly and you just get this sort of sinking feeling that the other person is not listening to you or has switched off. I would say the number one thing that comes to mind is language barrier for us. In terms of the actual culture, I would say we’re very well matched. I feel like the young people all over the world, particularly the tech ecosystem are growing up on the same things. They’re growing up Slashdot and TechCrunch and all these things. So we have a very similar culture in that sense, sort of trying to build cutting edge technology and great user experiences and so on.
Lisette: Super interesting. I mean that does make sense as the younger culture is more and more online. The people are using the same resources and sort of developing the same culture online and not necessarily local.
Sumant: Yeah, exactly all the way to the same YouTube memes, the same humor and the [25:38] these days because people have seen it.
Lisette: We’ve all gotten to the Reddit pages.
Sumant: Yes, yes. We use like a corporate internal social networking tool for the company and the kinds of stuff that’s posted it’s pretty similar, if you think about it. Slightly different content but similar in ethos, I think.
Lisette: And what about the time zone? What is the time zone different between Chicago and Vietnam?
Sumant: It’s the worst possible. It’s exactly 12 hours.
Lisette: Oh, intense.
Lisette: How do you manage that because that is a significant difference?
Sumant: We have to have meetings during late evenings for either party, either for the US or Vietnam. And one thing we try to do here is we try to have as many night meetings here as we have in Vietnam. For us they’re an equal office and we like to look at it that way. I think that was a good, I wouldn’t say a gesture, but that’s just good culture, I think, particularly because we have people there who for us are as important as people here. For us it’s very important that everybody…it’s very inclusive.
Lisette: So keeping and treating each other as equals. I’ve heard this in another interview, actually, and just that each office feels like an equal partner in the deal.
Nick: Not just feels like because that’s reality. They are. We’re all in this together. A kind of piggyback to the point I was going to make on your earlier response Sumant, I mean I think what goes into the culture here is just the type of personality that can be successful here. That cuts across all kinds of gender and racial and religious and socioeconomic background. I think what’s more important here is just being an innovative spirit because working at a startup, a technology startup that’s really trying to do something important it’s hard to describe in words how challenging it is and how stressful it can be and how 24/7, 365 kind of a job it can be. And so in order for you to be successful in that environment, I think the culture has to be one of always pushing forward, always looking at things new. I think it’s kind of more of a sophomoric example but getting into something like a Yik Yak or a Snapchat or whatever the new app happens to be, it’s so funny because I’ll come in and be like “hey I just checked out this new app and it was really funny” and Sanjay will be like “Yik Yak? Oh yeah I checked that one out yesterday.” It will be like just this idea that we’re all sort of in this thing together but we’re all experiencing the same space together. We’re all into experiencing new technologies, new communication paradigms and we’re open to that kind of a thing because we have to be in order to then be able to productize and give those experiences to our end clients or end users.
Lisette: I can imagine though that given the time zone difference is pretty significant and you’re a startup, that the whole idea of always being on, is that a challenge for you guys? I mean it seems like you could be working all the time, given that it’s sort of a 24/7 environment. I mean giving the time zone difference, you could possibly be asking and answering questions at 2:00 in the morning if you happen to be awake.
Nick: All the time.
Lisette: So how do you guys deal with that? Is it just each person for themselves take responsibility and just be careful or do you notice when team members are burning out?
Sumant: There’s definitely both. I think we definitely have the kinds of people who like to do an excellent job of whatever they’re doing. We do find people answering emails a lot at 2:00 AM and so on. But I think generally we are cognizant of the fact that certain teams are burning out or overworked and so on. I think the best thing we can do, as a company, is to just sort of plan better and keep our deadlines in check and just not have unreasonable deadlines and so on. That’s something we try to do and I’m sure we can do it better. We’re always overreaching, I’m sure. But yeah I think it’s sort of nature of the beast is that there’s definitely some work in the night usually. At least our culture has been…people sort of take care of themselves. When they need to take a time off, they do. When they need to take time off with family, nobody questions it for sure. But yeah I think there’s a lot of that. Of course we have a whole lot of ways to let off steam within the company, I mean whether it’s having five different kinds of coffee machine or whether it’s having outings and so on. I think we do have a lot of fun at work too, not that that substitutes for a good work-life balance.
Lisette: No, but it does help. If you work with nice people then it’s not so hard to be at work. But if you’re just dying to get out of then, then it’s hard.
Sumant: Right, exactly.
Lisette: The other side of that is and the thing that comes up in every interview is the idea of trust between colleagues and between management and that that seems to be the thing that keeps people from going remote, is how do we know that people are working? So how do you guys know if people are working, like if you hire new people or do things.
Sumant: We’re small enough that I think we try to hire well so that we don’t have to bother about that. I think we’re particularly trusting and deservingly so because the kinds of people we have, we believe don’t need that level of oversight. Most people are here to work on cutting edge technology and to make a dent a quickly so usually that’s rarely the issue. In fact I think most of the time people are mostly just trying to keep up with each other. There’s definitely this culture of people trying to run as fast as possible and I think that’s just the kind of people we have. I don’t think that means it’s like 20-hour days or something crazy. It’s just that it’s that interesting and that exciting right now for us that we do find that people are extremely enthusiastic about getting their job done, making the deadline, putting the product in front of the customer. Surely we don’t oversee that much. I don’t think. At least I haven’t felt that oversight and I’m pretty sure I don’t, myself, have that concern ever.
Lisette: So when you say that you hire well, how do you do that? What is the process? How do you make sure you’re hiring well because I know a lot of people struggle with this remotely.
Sumant: I think our roots help us a lot. Like I was saying we have very strong ties with the University of Illinois. We have access to a lot excellent talent, compared to where Silicon Valley is, lots of competition locally. We were able to sort of find people who are really good in the area, in Illinois. And the other aspect of it is that I think the technology sort of speaks for itself too. I think the fact that you get to work with cool new toys, that you’re working with stuff that none of your friends have ever seen before, I think that matters. I think that matters. I think people love our demos and we like to show them off because it definitely got that initial wow factor and it’s also got a sustaining wow factor because in order to do what we’re doing right now, I wouldn’t say it’s perfect. We still have some flaws. But even to get here is a very sophisticated image processing computer vision algorithm, a lot of technology behind [35:03] getting to just this point. I think engineers tend to appreciate that and so do people in sales and marketing. I think they like to sell a product that would effectively sell itself. And so we like to think. I think that’s been our strength.
Lisette: Okay. And we’re getting to the end here and I want to just ask a few more questions, and one is what advice would you give for other teams who are starting out that want to go remote or that are maybe struggling with remote. Is there any, a couple of tips that you guys would share for why it works so well in your team?
Nick: Use Personify. That’s the #1 tip.
Lisette: Which one?
Nick: Use Personify. That’s my #1 tip.
Lisette: Yeah for sure, for sure. But in terms of working remote, I mean…
Sumant: I think we’ve talked about video. I think video is very strong use case when you’re remote. And I think there’s just amazing tools right now, cloud-based tools to collaborate. The number of options are just growing every day. I think definitely you’ll be using a lot of text chatting. Stay connected to the lot through all these different tools and so and so. Cloud-based tools will probably be my next item. I think keeping your mind open initially to the idea of remote collaboration because you do get used to it. It does have that initial growing pain, so you need to sort of nearly have that culture be instilled initially by management to sort of embrace and appreciate remote collaboration rather than sort of stick to the old ways. I don’t think the young people have a problem with this because they all grow up with these technologies, but I think definitely if you bring the work for us for a while, you didn’t grow up with this. I didn’t grow up with this. I didn’t have these tools in college and beyond. I think there is an initial learning curve and just embracing that. One way to embrace that is to just sort of have that management blessing and inculcate that, top-down, I think helps too.
Lisette: It’s funny. When I ask most people what the issue is, what is the resistance to going remote, there is this unilateral very swift response. Without even hesitation, everybody says ‘management’ like it’s a generation gap. The younger people are used to collaborating. The programmers have been doing open-source programming for years now, the gaming industry. People have grown up on this and it’s not weird anymore but the older generation it’s still too hard. It’s like too weird and happening too fast.
Nick: I think a lot of that comes from, being sort of the younger generation set myself, probably older of the millennial generation I suppose, I think there is a lot of psychological effort that goes into learning a new tool or learning a new systemic tool set or something like that. I just moved our whole support system over from UserVoice over to desk.com, and building out the whole desk.com system. And that takes and effort and energy. It’s something I enjoy. There’s certainly a lot of challenges and a lot of little details that you need to get right in order to manage successfully thousands and eventually millions of support requests, questions and customer feedbacks and interactions and forums and all of those things. I could see, totally, if I was 55 years old why I would just go hire a call center or whatever. I could see how using Amazon Web Services might be scary and you’d rather go have your own server farm sitting in your office over in the corner or why using GitHub for source code control or HubSpot for inbound marketing. Learning and using these tools takes a bit of psychological effort and I think it’s endemic of the kind of company you work for in the first place to be able to go ahead and use those tools. I think that speaks to the kind of person that works at a place like Personify or works at forward thinking companies in terms of collaboration. There’s sort of an ethic of “okay, I got to put in the psychological effort.” And then of course it’s like anything, right? It’s like once you get that first mile, the second or third or fifth or tenth mile is so much easier.
Lisette: That’s true. But I think your point is very important in that the amount of time and the effort that it takes to learn these new tools is not to be underestimated.
Lisette: Software, especially when we’re getting minimal viable products out there, it’s buggy and it does weird things and the buttons don’t work and you don’t know why, you sat down just to record something for one minute and one hour later you’re still fidgeting with this one button. That kind of stuff will drive somebody insane. If you’re trying to manage a team and you’re trying to learn a new tool, there’s just not enough hours in the day. I think you’re right. That is an issue, and maybe the younger generations are more used to it, and I say ‘we’ but I’m 40. I’m not really included in the millennials.
Nick: Really? You look like 23 to me. I was totally going to say that.
Lisette: That is the right thing to say. I mean when we’re downloading apps, like everyday a new app and we’re kind of testing something out, that’s sort of a new thing. It’s not something the older generation really does. That’s a really important point. I would say, even on top of that, even if you find a tool, getting the rest of your team to use the tool. So then the final question that I have is an easy one, which is if people want to get in touch with you and they will want to get in touch. I mean when I first saw the Zoom webinar, I was on the edge of my seat. [41:37] right after the webinar. So if people want to get in touch with you guys, if they want to get a demo or Twitter, what’s the best way to connect?
Nick: Likely through my email. I mean if it’s more, I suppose, if there’s interesting engineers and those kind of things, I think that’s probably something that Sumant will be able to handle. Most of the folks, if they want to get up and running on a technology like that, that’s sort of my port of call and what I do all day long. My contact is probably the best. If it’s more of a customer facing “I want to get up and running with the technology” but if it’s more of a detailed technical question or a follow up question, some thread that’s been sparked by this discussion here, then I think Sumant will probably be the better contact there.
Lisette: Okay, great.
Nick: Email probably is the best.
Sumant: I think our website has a way to get in touch with us as well.
Nick: And that too, yeah of course.
Lisette: Personify.com, I must say.
Lisette: Right, and I’ll put all of these in the liner notes for those that are watching. That’s all the questions I have today. Is there anything that I should have asked but didn’t or something that was on your mind that you wish I had asked?
Sumant: I think we covered some good ground today and I appreciate you moderating and bringing all these aspects of collaborating to the floor and I think this will be useful to people who are starting out or even people who are struggling with remote collaboration to sort of learn from our experiences. And we’re learning too. Everyday we’re adopting a new tool, trying it out, trying to see how it improves our lives and so on.
Lisette: What I like that it shows is it is possible. It can work. If you want to work remotely, if you want to work even 12 hours apart, it is possible.
Sumant: Yes, definitely. We’re living proof to that.
Lisette: Right. Right. Right. Right. And we’re [43:45] so I love that. Alright, well then thanks you guys for your time today. I really appreciate it. And until next time everybody, be powerful.